Total traffic deaths on U.S. highways rose 5.6 percent in 2016 to a decade-high of 37,461, with truck-involved fatalities also increasing again, a new report found.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report said fatalities rose 2.6 percent to 1.18 deaths per 100 million miles driven, up from 1.15 one year earlier.
There were 4,317 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks, a gain of 5.4 percent and the highest since 2007. More than 70 percent of the fatalities were occupants of other vehicles. A total of 722 occupants of large trucks died in crashes in 2016.
The overall death total comes one year after fatalities rose 8.4 percent, the largest jump since 1964. The last time traffic deaths were higher was in 2007, when 41,259 were killed on U.S. roads.
Fatalities jumped in nearly every category with the exception of distracted drivers, which dipped 2.2 percent to 3,450. However, because that data relies on police reports, some experts question the reliability of the figure.
NHTSA said drunk driving deaths rose 1.7 percent and speeding-related deaths increased 4 percent. The agency said 2,500 deaths would have been prevented if all occupants wore safety belts.
“Too many states lack too many safety laws and that is contributing to this public health crisis,” said Jackie Gillan, president of the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “At the federal level, critical safety standards that would make our highways safer for everyone are delayed or ignored.
Gillan called rear seat belt reminder systems, vehicle design improvements to reduce the severity of collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as wider promotion of automatic emergency braking systems.